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Steve Winter
State Representative District 3

March  11, 2012
"Primary Voters "

Steven Winter represents the towns of Newbury and Sutton, Merrimack District 3, in the NH House of Representatives.

Representative Winter is a member of the House Executive Department & Administration  Committee, The Special Committee on Public Employee Pension Reform and the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (JLCAR).


"The convention system has its faults, of course, but I do not know of a better method for choosing a nominee."
 – Harry Truman

The Presidential Primary system began in Oregon in 1910 and New Hampshire followed suit by establishing its primary in 1916. The primary voting process grew to 20 states by 1920 but some found the new procedure wanting and by 1968 only 12 states used it. The rest used the convention process.

New Hampshire’s primary was enhanced by the 1952 contest where, according to Wikipedia, Dwight Eisenhower demonstrated his broad voter appeal by out-polling the favored Robert Taft. Taft dropped out and Eisenhower coasted to a Republican victory.

I don’t know whether Truman’s prescient quote above was made before or after his primary defeat but he made a good point, especially the way some of the primaries are run these days.


There has been much debate in the last week regarding Michigan’s "open" primary where registered voters can vote for a nominee of either party. There is much angst about the probability that Democrats, having no primary this year, have chosen to vote in the Republican primary. In doing so, they can vote for a nominee whom they believe will be an easier target for the president.

What’s wrong with this? Doesn’t everyone have a right to vote? Yes, of course, everyone has a right to vote – in a general election. But the Michigan primary is not an election. It is a nomination processes. The party is selecting who it wants as the nominee to run against the other party.

Why should a voter who is not a member of the Republican Party have any say at all as to who the Republican nominee should be? Who thought up this cockamamie system where Democrats can vote for the Republican nominee and the Republicans can vote for the Democratic nominee?

The best answer I can think of is that few seem to recognize what a presidential primary is. No consideration is given to the "unintended consequences". This system works reasonably well when both parties have contested races. But when a sitting president runs unopposed, the "open" primary results in too many opportunities to gum up the works and play havoc with this very serious selection process.

New Hampshire’s system is better but only a little better. Voters registered to one party or another cannot vote in the other’s nominating primary here. However, undeclared voters (there are no "independent" voters registered here) can sign up for one of the parties on election day, cast their party vote, and then immediately change back to undeclared.

That gives me a problem too. If voters feel they cannot declare for an established party, why should they be able to participate in any party’s nominations? If you don’t want to affiliate then you shouldn’t get a chance to choose the party’s candidates. I guess we have to accept that they can change their minds and want to be party members. But shouldn’t they then keep that registration for more than 15 minutes?


Steve Winter, Representative, Merrimack District 3
Newbury and Sutton, New Hampshire 

Telephone:  603-271- 3125 and 271-3319

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